If you have succeeded as a produce manager, supervisor, or have attained any level of management, chances are pretty good that you’ve had a little help.

Anyone can benefit from a mentor

Armand Lobato
The Produce Aisle

Someone may have recommended you as the kid they liked because you hustled. Maybe it was a department or store manager. Perhaps you came in a little earlier than the rest or stayed a little longer past your normal shift. Your dedication put you in position to be noticed, and you started to work your way up.

The person who cared enough to help guide you along the way is your mentor.

Nobody comes into the produce business pre-wired with knowledge of how things work. Sometimes a successful person can point to a number of people that guided them along the way. Usually the mentor is a central figure in a person’s career, the one called upon for advice when things get tough.

And in our business, it never gets any easier, does it?

Sure, some have ground it out on their own — or so they think. I’ve talked with some who say they are completely self-made. Maybe so. But I still bet that someone took notice, and quiet and unsung as they may have been, helped to get the “self-made” person to the next level.

How important is it to have a mentor? Think about any teacher along the way who worked with you just a little longer, who helped you to the point that the “ah-ha!” moment came, and the light bulb went on above your head.

This happens in business too, and it only makes sense. Having someone help guide the way can minimize time and money as the student learns to avoid mistakes that would happen if not for a mentor in the wings.

While important in all walks of life, the produce business values experience.

In the next couple of weeks, I hope to convey not only the importance of having a mentor but also how to find a good mentor. I also want to look at how to be a good mentor.

Every produce success story I see, from the outstanding produce manager in a store to the owner of a distribution warehouse or retail produce director share common traits: They have worked their tails off, sacrificed to finish education (formal or otherwise), are good leaders, are mostly humble on the surface but have a burning, competitive nature within.

Every one can point to his own figurative “old man at the top of the mountain” who helped influence his career and life.

How has a mentor influenced your career? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.